Five Worst Famines in the History
Whatever may be the reason for the disaster but one must admit that death by starvation and malnutrition is slow and painful, and often hits the youngest and the elderly the hardest.
Below are 5 terrible famines experienced throughout human history.
Bengal Famine of 1770
10 million dead
This horrific event killed a third of the population. Largely ruled by the English-owned East India Company, reports of severe drought and crop shortages were ignored, and the company continued to increase taxes on the region.
Farmers were unable to grow crops, and any food that could be purchased was too expensive for the starving Bengalis. The company also forced farmers to grow indigo and opium, as they were much more profitable than inexpensive rice. Without large rice stocks, people were left with no food reserves, and the ensuing famine killed 10 million Bengalis.
Soviet Famine of 1932-1933
10 million dead
The severity of this famine was not fully known in the West until the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s. The main cause was the policy of collectivization administered by Josef Stalin. Under collectivization, large swaths of land would be converted into collective farms, all maintained by peasants.
Stalin went about implementing this by destroying the peasants existing farms, crops, and live-stock, and forcibly taking their land.
The destruction of these seeds and the forced collectivization of land caused mass starvation, killing an estimated 10 million people.
11 million dead
The Chalisa famine refers to the year in the Vikram Samvat calendar used in Northern India. Occurring in 1783, the region suffered from an unusually dry year, as a shift in the El Nino weather system brought significantly less rain to the region.
Vast swaths of crops withered and died, and livestock perished due to lack of food and drinking water. The tumultuous year killed 11 million Indians.
Chinese Famine of 1907
25 million dead
Ranking second in terms of death toll, the Chinese Famine of 1907 was a short-lived event that took the lives of nearly 25 million people. East-Central China was reeling from a series of poor harvests when a massive storm flooded 40,000 square miles of lush agricultural territory, destroying 100% of the crops in the region. Food riots took place daily, and were often quelled through the use of deadly force.
It is estimated that, on a good day, only 5,000 were dying due to starvation. Unfortunately for the Chinese, this would not be their last great famine.
Great Chinese Famine
43 million dead
Much like the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933, the Great Chinese Famine was caused by Communist leaders attempting to force change upon an unwilling population. As part of their “Great Leap Forward”, the owning of private land was outlawed in China in 1958. Communal farming was implemented in an attempt to increase crop production. More relevant, however, was the importance the Communist Regime placed on iron and steel production. Millions of agricultural workers were forcibly removed from their fields and sent to factories to create metal.
In addition to these fatal errors, Chinese officials mandated new methods of planting. Seeds were to be planted 3-5 feet under the soil, extremely close together, to maximize growth and efficiency. In practice, what little seeds that sprouted were severely stunted in growth due to overcrowding.
These failed policies, teamed with a flood in 1959 and a drought in 1960, affected the entirety of the Chinese nation. By the time the Great Leap Forward had ended in 1962, 43 million Chinese had died from the famine.